« PreviousContinue »
Campanero. No sound or song from any of the winged inhabitants of the forest, not even the clearly pronounced • Whip-poor-will,' from the goatsucker, cause such astonishment as the toll of the Campanero. With many
of the feathered race, he pays the common tribute of a morning and an evening song; and even when the meridian sun has shut in silence the mouths of almost the whole of animated nature, the Campanero still cheers the forest. You hear his toll; and then a pause for a minute ; then another toll, and then a pause again ; and then a toll, and again a pause.
Then he is silent for six or eight minutes; and then another toll, and so on." The most anxious travellers cannot refuse to pause and listen to him, so sweet, so novel, and romantic is the toll of the pretty snow-white Campanero. Of his nest we know nothing.
The true Manakins, forming the restricted genus
Pipra, are very numerous, small, and prettily coloured. They are mostly natives of South America, and frequent humid forests, where they associate in small flocks, feeding on seeds and wild berries. Waterton describes four species he met with in Demerara, but without giving any names, observing that on a species of fig tree, which bears fruit twice a year, a half red and half black species (most probably the Pipra rubra) is on the tree, during the time of the fruit being ripe, from morning till evening.
One of the most beautiful is the PURPLE MANAKIN, (Pipra cristata, ) a native of Mexico and Brazil. M. Fermin's description is, “ that the bird has a golden orange crest; the rest of the body violet, like an amethyst.” In size it is less than a sparrow. It appears to be extremely rare.
Latham enumerates upwards of forty species of Manakins, but his details are little else than specific descriptions of colour, size, and locality. In fact we know nothing of the minutiæ of the habits and manners of these charming little birds. In all probability, however, they have much resemblance in those respects to our titmice, being restless and inquisitive, flitting from spray to spray, examining every bud with prying curiosity, suspending themselves in all sorts of positions among the twigs and branches, and then with short and hurried flight passing to another tree which holds out a promise of satisfying their appetite.
Here may be closed the family Pipridæ, and with it the Dentirostral tribe; not, we trust, without having afforded a certain degree of instruction, and awakened a still greater degree of interest. The works of God have only to be studied in order to become most attractive, and, if rightly studied, most productive of beneficial effects upon the mind, enlarging our conceptions of His power, His glory, and His omnipresence.
TRIBE III. CONIROSTRES.
THE Conirostral tribe embraces those birds which are distinguished by a beak of considerable strength, and, as the title indicates, a more or less conical form. We may add to this, that the more decidedly conical the configuration of this organ, the more exclusively do hard seeds and grains constitute the diet of the bird in its adult condition. We may cite the common sparrow as an example, a bird which lives upon barley, oats, peas, and farinaceous vegetable matter in general; still in this, as in most cases, the unfledged young are fed to a great extent upon caterpillars and insects, as well as upon grain softened in the crop of the parents. Where, on the other hand, the beak is more elongated, and though strong and powerful, less abruptly and truly conical, as in the crow, raven, &c., the food consists more of animal matters, such as insects, carrion, eggs, and even feeble animals, grain and farinaceous vegetables being not altogether excluded.
FAMILY THE FIRST.-FRINGILLIDÆ, or the Finches. The Finches, or Fringillidæ, compose an immense multitude of small birds, which, like the soft-billed warblers, (Sylviada,) tenant the groves and hedgerows, many joining their clear strains to the chorus of the wilds and woodlands. Hence are they sometimes called, by way of contradistinction, the Hard-billed Warblers. There is, however, this difference between the music of these two bands : the notes of the Sylviadæ are soft, mellow, and often deep; whereas those of the Fringillidæ are loud, clear, and often shrill.
Few or none of our native Finches are migratory, though in winter we are visited by strangers from higher latitudes, which, as the siskin, seek in small flocks a temporary asylum from the rigour of the frozen north, returning homewards with the first promise of spring. In a family so extensive as the present the genera are very numerous, and are often regulated by minutiæ of form, which, to the professed naturalist alone, are of interest or importance; we shall therefore take the liberty of exercising a discretionary selection of such examples as will lead our young reader to a general conception of the subject.
We may begin by stating that the present family contains the Larks, Buntings, Linnets, Weaver Birds, Finches and Sparrows, Tanagers, Grosbeaks, Crossbills, &c.; which we shall take in the order as written, presenting our readers with a sketch of the forms of the beak of each of our sections.